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Publisher's Summary

Nobody who works hard should be poor in America, writes Pulitzer Prize-winner David Shipler. Clear-headed, rigorous, and compassionate, he journeys deeply into the lives of individual store clerks and factory workers, farm laborers and sweat-shop seamstresses, illegal immigrants in menial jobs, and Americans saddled with immense student loans and paltry wages. They are known as the working poor.

They perform labor essential to America's comfort. They are white and black, Latino and Asian - men and women in small towns and city slums trapped near the poverty line, where the margins are so tight that even minor setbacks can cause devastating chain reactions. Shipler shows how liberals and conservatives are both partly right - that practically every life story contains failure by both the society and the individual. Braced by hard fact and personal testimony, he unravels the forces that confine people in the quagmire of low wages. And unlike most works on poverty, this book also offers compelling portraits of employers struggling against razor-thin profits and competition from abroad.

With pointed recommendations for change that will challenge Republicans and Democrats alike, The Working Poor stands to make a difference.

©2004 David K. Shipler (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“This is one of those seminal books that every American should read and read now.” (The New York Times Book Review)
The Working Poor... should be required reading not just for every menber of Conbress, but for every eligible voter.” (Washington Post Book World)
“The 'working poor' ought to be an oxymoron, because no one who works should be impoverished. In this thoughtful assessment of poverty in twenty-first century America, David Shipler shows why so many working Americans remain poor, and offers a powerful guide for how to resuscitate the American dream. A tour de force of a forgotten land.” (Robert B. Reich, University Professor, Brandeis University, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
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  • Story
  • nancy
  • Redlands, CA, United States
  • 10-05-12

A Must Read Book for the Middle-Class

Would you listen to The Working Poor again? Why?

Yes, because there are many statistics and stories in it that I'd like to reference to others.

What other book might you compare The Working Poor to and why?

Ruby Payne's The Culture of Understanding Poverty

What does Peter Ganim bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He did a fine job at voicing the various people highlighted in the book. Consequently, it was easy to keep them apart.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The part about the under-nourished children and day-care issues for working/welfare mothers was heart-rending. Shame on us for allowing this to happen in a country where we have so much.

Any additional comments?

The Working Poor very carefully explains the multitude of obstacles interfering with chronically poor American's inability to work their way into the middle class. Even though many of these deterrents are self-imposed, they are handicaps nevertheless. He also offers some sound solutions and inspirational programs that give a hand up and not just a hand out.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Depth, Breadth and Authenticity

The author was able to capture the joys and pains of the individual experiences, while compressing an complex topic into palatable portions. Thanks for telling MY story and enlightening me to the plight of many others!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Cynthia
  • Monrovia, California, United States
  • 07-28-12

Textbook Perfect Discussion of the Problem

When I purchased this, I was expecting a book closer to Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickle and Dimed: On (not) Getting by In America", or James D. Scurlock's "Maxed Out". Ehrenrich's and Scurlock's books are very good, but lightly touch on specific aspects of the problem.

I was pleased to find that "The Working Poor: Invisible in America" is a much more comprehensive and thoroughly researched book on the topic. In fact, it's so good, it really could be used in a college course on the subject.

At times, the author was bogged down in minute detail. The detail was appropriate, but sometimes wandered from the topic and was hard to follow.

I appreciated that this isn't a "those people" kind of book. When he uses real-life examples, Shipler knows and appreciates his subjects. He approaches them with clear eyes, neither deifying or demonizing them.

The performance was a little rough and slow. I would have appreciated a little faster narration.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Hope to convince my children to read one day..

Book was so compelling because I recognized my journey from poverty in many of the stories... I'm also convinced we can do so much more but it will require us to see the commonality in our struggle for the American dream..

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A Bit of a Snore . . .

It was a good book, well written, based on good research with interesting and memorable characters. It was a good reminder of what it's like to have to count every penny. However, it a sober topic and sober topics can sometimes lead to early bedtimes.

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Errors in the reading.

I found as I was listening the story, many of the facts were slightly different then the reading in the book. Still helped me comprehend on a deeper level the depth of the book.

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  • MDO
  • Kingsland, GA United States
  • 05-19-12

The Narrator was the Problem

What did you like best about The Working Poor? What did you like least?

The book itself I thought was very good. I would have enjoyed the book much more had I read it and not bought the audio version. I did learn to always listen to a sample because the narrator can make or brake a book. I thought Mr. Ganim would have been better suited to read a mystery or suspense book rather than a work of nonfiction such as this. To me, he sounded like he was talking down to you. I just didn't like "him."

What didn’t you like about Peter Ganim’s performance?

I didn't like anything about Peter Ganim's performance.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Suzanne
  • Frankfort, IL, United States
  • 01-20-14

This is a book that I had to read for school..

What would have made The Working Poor better?

Almost anything it was very boring and depressing the author did not take a side for his points.

What do you think your next listen will be?

ANYTHING BUT THIS!!!

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Peter Ganim?

The narrator did a great job.

What character would you cut from The Working Poor?

They all have a good role for the points that were made.

Any additional comments?

would not suggest reading this for fun..

0 of 6 people found this review helpful